Solutions to the Top 5 Tiny House Limitations
This article was first published on TinyHouseBlog.com.
Do you want to live tiny but are worried about having to make too many sacrifices in space and comfort? We were too but can say with total confidence and from experience that with the right design and house size choice, you can go tiny and still live extremely comfortably.
We will assume that if you are reading this article that you share many of the same dreams, goals, and values that we do. Living a life that is mortgage/rent inexpensive (or free), that provides an abundance of time for travel, hobbies, family and friends, that is peaceful and harmonious is what we’ve been working towards for decades.
We were so committed to creating that reality that we took a risk and built a tiny house (207 SF + 110 SF in lofts on a 28′ trailer) rather than a more conventionally sized home. We were prepared (and willing!) to make significant sacrifices in square footage to achieve our life goals.
Here’s the kicker: to our surprise we have not felt, at any point, that we’ve been making sacrifices or compromises in living this new lifestyle. Rather, it feels like our needs are being met luxuriously and that we have ample room to run our home business, entertain, cook, bathe, watch movies, play guitar, wrestle with our dog, or store our clothes and belongings. Not once have we been uncomfortable, hurt our backs in the lofts, struggled on our stairs, felt like our fridge or kitchen sink is too small, or found that we don’t have room for something.
Here are the common areas in a conventional tiny house that typically pose significant compromises/sacrifice and how we found a solution for each:
I would venture a guess that loft access is one of the top concerns in tiny house living…we felt the same way. We’re youngish, strong and healthy but we don’t want to haul our bodies up and down dinky ladders to get to our bedroom each night. Not only do ladders to bedrooms sound miserable but they also seem like a poor idea for someone who fumbles to the bathroom with eyes nearly shut at night like I do.
We designed our house, which we loving named “hOMe,” specifically to accommodate Andrew’s modular stair system. The tread and riser ratio is such that going up is as easy and comfortable as coming down (even with my middle of the night). Further, 25 SF of storage space can be found beneath the stairs which provides room for all our shoes, hats, winter apparel, dog accoutrements, keys, and purse. There’s even enough space for a washer/dryer combo unit if one prefers to do their laundry in their home. To learn how to build these stairs, click here.
We are all for rustic living and have certainly done our share of it including living in an 80 SF historic, off-grid log cabin in the Colorado Rockies, tons of long term backcountry camping, and spending 5 months traveling in a pop-up tent trailer in Baja with our 11 year old daughter. So we know that we CAN cook in a teeny-tiny kitchen but we don’t WANT to.
In order for a space to feel like home for us, a functional kitchen is needed. The one in hOMe is 56 SF and perfect. Andrew and I can easily cook together without bumping into each other. Our propane range/oven is a standard, full size unit with 5 burners. Our fridge is energy efficient and large at 18 CF, and our sink is a standard, deep, single bowl model with a built-in drying rack.
More than half of our cabinets and drawers are empty; we are super clear on what’s necessary in a kitchen and what gadgets are frivolous and space-stuffers. We wouldn’t trade that extra cabinet storage though because we love how much counter space it yields. Lastly, building a U-shaped kitchen was one of the best decisions we made in our design; the work triangle is just the right size.
Again, I know that we CAN brush our teeth in a mini-sink and shower in a minuscule stall, but in our home, we really didn’t want to. During our design process we made a significant and vital change which led to our bathroom being 2′ longer. The extra space accommodated a regular sink and shower unit as well as a floor to ceiling storage cabinet.
We have an abundance of storage space in two full drawers under our sink as well as the storage cabinet. All our toiletries (we are four using the bathroom), first aid supplies, vitamins and supplements, soaps/shampoos, cleaning and laundry supplies, etc. I should mention as a side note that both the kitchen and bathroom, which are located below the lofts, have ample head room and don’t feel cramped even for our friends which are about 6’2″ tall.
I have worked from home full-time since 2004 and Andrew since 2007. We are both self motivated, passionate about what we do, and wouldn’t trade our jobs for anything. We have tried working outside of our home but have found that we are most productive and love our jobs best when we are working from within our own walls. No commute, schedule-independence, and no office space rent. Creating a functional office area in hOMe was a necessity and we feel we accomplished that.
By creating a paperless office (you can watch a short video on how we did that here), we eliminated 75% of the space we previously needed to run our business. Two folding desks work double-duty as office and eating tables. The printer and scanner store inside our cabinets and all office supplies fit in just one tall cabinet unit.
We also have overflow work space in three other areas: our bedroom loft (we bought two bed loungers so we can comfortably sit up in bed), our TV/hang out lounge (lots of pillows create a wonderful cradle) and the built-in sofa. So if one of us needs a bit more desk space for a project, there are options of other places to go.
The hOMe design centers around a long and tall series of cabinets made by Ikea. Even though we got rid of about 90% of our material possessions in our 3 year downsizing process (you can read more about that here), we still own some “stuff”. Our cabinets provide us with 82 SF of storage which is more than enough for our belongings such as favorite books, camping supplies, linens, etc.
Andrew and I are super compatible. We have been partners in life since 1993, still love each other’s company, and are glad that we work together. That said, I don’t want to hear or see him every single second (and I’m sure he feels the same about me). So, we have been happily surprised at how much privacy we can find in hOMe. Because our bedroom loft is pretty large and has a wall that separates it from the open area below, it really feels like a separate bedroom.
In sum, we have been ecstatic with hOMe and living tiny. Truly it is beyond expectation and wildest dreams. The months of planning and design paid off and at this point there isn’t a thing we would change. By identifying and addressing each of the common tiny house limitations that we weren’t personally willing to live with, we were able to find working solutions.
Because we chose to build tiny rather than a larger house, we were able to pay for the materials in cash (find out how much we paid to build it HERE) and now have the security of knowing we will always have a place on this planet to live for free. And being that it’s off grid, we aren’t bound to utility bills and the system. If you are considering making the move to tiny, we highly recommend it. If we can do it, so can you!
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